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(4) Virginia Tech (5-1) at (19) Georgia Tech (5-1)
Saturday, October 17th, 6:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A huge ACC battle takes place in Atlanta this weekend, as top-25 foes Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech meet in a crucial Coastal Division showdown.
The fourth-ranked Hokies dropped their season-opener against Alabama, but have run off five straight victories since then. Frank Beamer's squad has won the last two ACC titles and is in position to claim a third, having jumped out to a 3-0 start to conference play thanks to last weekend's 48-14 romp over Boston College.
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are also 5-1 on the year and ride a three-game win streak into this matchup. The team is 3-1 in league play this year, with the lone loss coming at Miami. More recently, Georgia Tech was involved in a thrilling shootout with Florida State, coming out on top in a 49-44 barn- burner.
Johnson knows that the two-time defending champions are the team to beat once again.
"This week is a huge game for our team and our program. One of our goals every year is to compete for an ACC championship and we've gotten ourselves to the point that this game is meaningful along those lines. If we win, we have a chance, if we lose we probably have no chance. We'll find out if we're good enough on Saturday."
This is just the seventh all-time meeting between these two teams, in a series that dates back to 1990. The Hokies have won four of the previous six matchups, including a 20-17 decision last year in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech lost its starting tailback (Darren Evans) before the season began, but that has not prevented the Hokies from running the football. In fact, what has happened is that freshman tailback Ryan Williams has burst on the scene, currently leading the ACC in rushing. Williams has dominated the competition to this point, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 122.3 yards per game, while scoring nine of the team's 13 rushing TDs to date. Sophomore Josh Oglesby (5.3 ypc) and freshman David Wilson (6.4 ypc) add to a strong stable of backs, as the Hokies are netting 208.5 yards per game, on 4.7 yards per carry.
Beamer isn't surprised by Williams' season thus far.
"He can make you miss, he can out-run you and he can run over you. He can punish you. That's a heckuva combination. There aren't many backs who have that combination. I think he's special."
The passing game is an afterthought, although quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been efficient when needed, completing 55.8 percent of his passes, for 995 yards, with eight TDs and just one INT. Sophomores Jarrett Boykin (19 receptions, for 355 yards, three TDs) and Danny Coale (10 receptions, 269 yards, two TDs) make the most of their opportunities in the vertical game.
The Hokies have been paced by a stingy defense for some time now and while the numbers aren't as impressive as in years past, this is still a unit that likes to get upfield and make plays. The team has recorded just 10 takeaways and 12 sacks in the first six games, but there are playmakers in every area of this defense.
The linebacking corps consists of starters Cody Grimm (team-high 49 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, three forced fumbles), Barquell Rivers (43 tackles, one fumble recovery) and Jake Johnson (42 tackles). Kam Chancellor (33 tackles, one INT) and Rashad Carmichael (28 tackles, three INTs) highlight the play in the secondary, while All-American candidate Jason Worilds (22 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and 3.0 sacks) must be accounted for along the defensive front.
The Hokies run the ball effectively, but no one in the ACC does it like Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rank fourth in the country in rushing, averaging 277.0 yards per game. The team possesses a potent dual threat in QB Josh Nesbitt, who has rushed for 503 yards and six TDs, while throwing four TD passes as well. Nesbitt's ability to run the ball is a real problem for defenders who must key on All-American candidate Jonathan Dwyer. Last year's ACC Player of the Year, Dwyer is netting 6.5 yards per carry in 2009, with five scores to his credit. Throw in the electric Anthony Allen (11.8 ypc, three TDs) and it is clear this team knows how to move the chains on the ground.
The Yellow Jackets rarely go to the air, but can present a problem for the opposition when they do, as WR Demaryius Thomas is a big target (6-3, 230), with great playmaking ability (26 catches, for 620 yards, four TDs).
The Georgia Tech defense has not been up to par this season and has shown real weaknesses throughout the first half of the campaign. In all, the team is yielding 26.5 ppg and 385.2 yards of total offense. The problems were magnified last week, when the Seminoles abused Tech for over 500 total yards.
This is not a unit without star power though, as junior rush end Derrick Morgan (27 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 6.5 sacks) has been a hand full along the defensive front. Brad Jefferson (team-high 36 tackles, two forced fumbles) and Sedric Griffin (34 tackles) have been effective from their linebacker positions, while Jerrard Tarrant (35 tackles, one fumble recovery) and Morgan Burnett (33 tackles, three INTs, one fumble recovery) have performed well in the secondary.
Both teams will run the ball in this one. However, Virginia Tech's defense is just a bit better and that could be the difference in a tight affair in Atlanta.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 24
10/14 11:07:18 ET